‘Keep computers on all day and don’t let teachers buy supplies’ – 10 ways for schools to save money

Business managers’ body says simple steps could cut costs by 20 per cent – but suggestion of using teaching assistants to cover classes is likely to rile unions

Schools could cut their administration costs by as much as 20 per cent by making relatively small changes such as improving time management and staff training, according to a report from the National Association of School Business Management.

The body, which represents school business managers, said institutions could save money by reducing the amount of time teachers spent in meetings and cutting back on “unnecessary email traffic”.

Other measures outlined in today’s report include training senior managers to make “more efficient purchasing decisions” and, controversially, “using experienced teaching assistants instead of supply teachers”.

The list has been published as business managers and headteachers are facing the prospect of years of tightening budgets.

The findings came from a study of efficiency measures at Backwell School in Bristol, carried out by OEE Consulting.

Wendy Farrier, Backwell’s school business manager, said: “When we agreed to take part in the study, I was confident that we were taking every measure available to be efficient. The changes suggested seemed small and obvious, so we were surprised how much money they represented.”

Ways to save time and money

  1. Keep reminding the senior leadership team about finance
    “The SLT needs to be aware of and understand the finances and the implications of the budget. Create a regular agenda item at SLT meetings to review the finances and performance against budget.”
  2. Make finance everyone’s business
    “Challenge staff to drive out all waste and to implement improvements that will make their working life easier and more rewarding.”
  3. Cut back on advertising
    “Consider carefully the value of advertising the school in the local press, particularly if the school is oversubscribed.”
  4. Invest sensibly
    “If the school is carrying a cash surplus, do not leave these funds idle in the current account for extended periods. Take the time to research and invest these funds in a safe financial instrument that will pay a good rate of return yet allow access to the funds as required.”
  5. Cut back on meetings
    “It is very common for meetings to be both time-consuming and ineffective, driving further meetings to address unresolved issues. It takes a concerted effort to break out of this cycle. Rethink how time is used. Don’t keep going to meetings every week to discuss things. Focus on what you want to achieve and devise actions to let you achieve those goals.”
  6. Cut back on email
    “Email is a pervasive stealer of everyone’s time. Many poor practices have developed over time which make the problem worse, eg, ‘cc all’. Excessive emails potentially obscure important emails, as well as take time that could be used more effectively elsewhere.”
  7. Make the best use of teaching assistants
    “Reconsider how TAs can be used in innovative ways rather than continuing to follow established practice, eg, using experienced TAs as cover teachers may be a more cost-effective solution than supply teachers.”
  8. Check your timetable
    “See how well the allocation of teaching time via timetabling matches teaching demand. Is there an excess or shortage of teaching capacity? If there is an excess, how effectively is this spare time utilised?”
  9. Don’t let teachers buy supplies
    “Limit teaching staff to defining the requirement and task the admin team with sourcing the best supplier. Minimise teaching time spent on non-teaching tasks.”
  10. Leave school computers on all day
    “Avoid wasted lesson time waiting for computers to boot up.”

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